by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 13th 2010 5:35am
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 14th 2010 4:41am
from the that's-it dept
Roger Ebert has been using Twitter quite a lot lately, and he came to it after being one of the Twitter-haters (like many people are), and he's now written eloquently about how he realized his initial thoughts on the service were wrong:
I vowed I would never become a Twit. Now I have Tweeted nearly 10,000 Tweets. I said Twitter represented the end of civilization. It now represents a part of the civilization I live in. I said it was impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters. I have been humbled by a mother of three in New Delhi. I said I feared I would become addicted. I was correct.Now, part of that is the fact that he has lost his voice, which has made it difficult for him to have good face-to-face conversations, something that he can do on Twitter. And it's that aspect of it that made him realize what a useful service it is:
I am in conversation. When you think about it, Twitter is something like a casual conversation among friends over dinner: Jokes, gossip, idle chatter, despair, philosophy, snark, outrage, news bulletins, mourning the dead, passing the time, remembering favorite lines, revealing yourself.A bunch of people sent this story over, and initially I wasn't sure if there was anything to say about it. But those few lines above so accurately describe the value of Twitter that it seemed worthwhile to post. I know it won't convince those who still see no need for the service, or those who feel the need to immediately put it down without additional thought, but for those who have found the service to be useful, the point Ebert makes above is what makes it so valuable. For me, personally, I've found that those sorts of "conversations" have allowed me to stay much more in touch with friends and family around the world, while also making new friends and acquaintances along the way. It really is just an ongoing conversation, and in a world where conversation matters (as I believe it does now, more than ever), the tools that make conversation easier are too important to simply brush aside as useless.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 21st 2010 12:12pm
from the which-is-more-important dept
I suspect that what's going to happen now is that as the moment of truth approaches, bloggers will increasingly search around for the NYT's replacement as online paper of record: the way that blogs work is that they're backed up by links to reliable sources, and a link is worthless if the person clicking on it risks running straight into a paywall, unable to read the information in question. The NYT's journalism might well continue to be reliable, but its website won't be, any more.That point highlights the difference between valuing the content vs. valuing the conversation (or even valuing enabling the conversation). The top folks at the NY Times (and many other publications) seem to over-value the content and undervalue the conversation. Thus, they think that the content needs to be paid for, but don't realize that they devalue their role in the conversation.
If you want to make the bet that the internet is more about content delivery than conversation and communication, then perhaps this makes sense. But, almost all signs point to the fact that it's the conversation that's the really important thing online, and devaluing that is almost certainly a mistake.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 3rd 2009 9:51am
from the stop-telling-us-otherwise dept
It seems that Michael Arrington, over at TechCrunch, has run into something similar (and I'm sure it happens to him all the time as well). After briefly (really, in passing) mentioning the infamous Video Professor in his post on marketing scams, the company first tried to get him to post their response, and when he told them no (in less friendly words), the company instead complained to the Washington Post, who syndicated the same TechCrunch post (as it has done for a while with TechCrunch posts). The real issue, of course, is that The Video Professor didn't like getting called out on its marketing practices. The company is notoriously sensitive over its reputation and has gone legal on people multiple times in the past. At issue is the fact that people are told they're getting a "free" product, but don't realize they're really signing up to pay a lot of money if they don't follow the fine print carefully. Arrington called this a "scam" and plenty of folks agree. The Video Professor did not agree, but if that's the case, it has every right to clarify its own marketing material, rather than going after those who call them out on their less-than-clear practices.
But the bigger issue with these types of situations is that companies need to realize that just because someone doesn't like the way you're acting and states an opinion, on that subject, it doesn't mean that they first need to contact you or get a meaningless PR quote from you. You have a right to respond, but on your own website -- or within open comments if they're available (as they are on this site). For too long, companies have hid behind bland PR statements and the willingness of the press to "balance" stories with an accusation and a denial, but no real effort to get to the bottom of things. That's changing, and it's time that companies and their PR reps caught up to what's happening.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 23rd 2009 9:55am
from the so-please-use-them dept
I've written many times before that we get more than enough stories sent to us by readers -- and I find plenty of interesting stories myself. I can't think of a single case where a PR person has turned me onto a PR story that I've cared about and hadn't already seen elsewhere. But PR people still fill my inbox daily with stories about all sorts of stuff we'd never write about, because they clearly don't read the site. They assume that any tech story is automatically relevant, so they spam me and probably 100 other sites. Perhaps some of them care and find the emails useful, though I doubt it.
In the last year or two, there's been a growing number of PR people who have moved on to a new tactic. Since actually getting press to cover the company you're representing is difficult, they now send around emails to writers about certain news stories, saying that so-and-so exec at such-and-such company, which has absolutely nothing to do with the story at hand, is "available for comment" on this story. So, for example, if two big companies announce a partnership, a PR person will send an email saying that some startup CEO in a market impacted by that partnership (barely), is "available for comment" about that partnership. It's basically a desperate PR person's attempt to get some press for a client where none is warranted.
Except, of course, we never quote people for posts here. We're not reporters. We're not looking for sources. We write about our opinions on stories and that's it. We'll quote another article, in order to comment on it, but we're not looking for sources at all. If you read Techdirt, you'd know that.
I recently put a message on Twitter about this, saying that, for all the PR people who had someone "available for comment" on stories, the comments on Techdirt are enabled and open for them to comment on any story they feel is relevant. It got a really good response on Twitter, so I figured I'd expand on it into a post. If you are a PR person, and you represent someone who has "a comment" on a particular story, please point them to the site where they are free to comment away, along with everyone else, as a part of a conversation, not some PR effort. And, please don't be offended if I just emailed you a link to this post in response to your offer to have some random exec "comment" on some unrelated story.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Sep 28th 2009 9:02am
from the but-no-abuse dept
And yet, with Ms. Allen shutting down the blog, and claiming it was because of "abuse," some people have started accusing me of "bullying" Ms. Allen. An IP lawyer in our comments insists that I am somehow bullying her in simply asking questions. One recording industry lawyer accused me of "leading" my "internet army" of "hackers" to "attack" any artist who agreed with Allen (what?!?). Then there was the major publication that claimed that Techdirt was upset about Allen copying our blog post and that we had "suddenly discovered the power of copyright." Apparently reading comprehension isn't a strong point there, seeing as we made no copyright claim at all, were happy that she copied our post, and merely used it as a teaching moment to show why everything wasn't nearly as clear cut as Ms. Allen believed. Suddenly, just because Ms. Allen cried "abuse," despite no evidence of any actual abuse, her supporters started assuming that it must be me who was doing the "abusing."
The whole thing has become rather insane, frankly. But I'm not afraid to respond to folks who raise reasonable questions. I don't shut down and hide when someone brings up points that weren't addressed. Ms. Allen kicked this whole thing off and claimed she was just trying to start a discussion. And we responded, by pointing out the inconsistencies in her position. That wasn't an attack. Plenty of people who first jump into a debate on copyright or file sharing don't fully understand the issues -- and the best way to help them get past those initial misconceptions is to ask important questions, and highlight how the issue is a lot more complex than it may appear at first blush. The fact that Ms. Allen was distributing others' copyrighted music on her own, and used that to help build her popularity -- while now claiming that the same activity by others was destroying the opportunity for new artists made little sense -- and the double standard seemed worth calling out. And, despite her deleting her blog, some actually saved many of the comments on her blog. And, again, they don't show "abuse," but thoughtful, reasoned argument along these lines -- none of which Ms. Allen has responded to as of yet. That post, by the way, also highlights numerous factual errors in Ms. Allen's earlier responses.
So, yes, I'm going to post this video, because I think it's great (and catchy) and because I think it does further the conversation, just not in the direction that Ms. Allen intended. It's from a fan of Ms. Allen's work, and is endearing, not attacking. It's entertaining. It's free... and it got me to go and buy Dan Bull's first album, even though he's offering it up for free, too. Ms. Allen wanted a conversation and she claims she wanted more new music. Well, here's both in one shot:
While lots of people have picked up on various aspects of the song, the two points that I think are most relevant are pointing out that downloads don't equal sales, so stopping downloads (or kicking people off the internet) doesn't make people pay up. This is a point we've been raising for ages, and no one ever responds. The industry seems to think that magically people will start paying. And yet, there's no evidence of that whatsoever.
The second point is sarcastic, but is really a good one. Dan Bull jokes that using the same logic of people who think that stopping piracy (as if that's possible) will make people buy more music, perhaps we should ban CDs, because (according to this logic) "then people would have to pay to see bands for real." There's a huge disconnect here. The people who think that blocking activity online (and, remember, study after study after study has shown that "pirates" end up spending a lot more on music) will drive more of some other buying activity have no sense of economic history.
Taking away what fans want to do doesn't drive them to paying you more money. It drives them towards others who actually treat fans right. Like Dan Bull.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 21st 2009 6:11pm
from the rather-than-a-brick-wall dept
The second one is obviously a lot more of the way research should work these days, though it shouldn't all be hidden in a separate site's comments. If journals are serious about advancing knowledge, rather than locking it up, why not give up on the obviously faulty simple peer review process, and open up the content so that knowledgeable people can input their own thoughts in comments directly on the article in question? Isn't that what knowledge exchange is supposed to be about?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 1st 2009 7:38pm
from the don't-forget-it dept
But that's a huge problem, considering the business those news organizations are actually in: bringing together a community whose attention they can then sell in some manner. If the folks who bring the community in then neglect that community, that community is going to go elsewhere. The disdain many journalists seem to have towards their community shows through.
However, I've had trouble getting across to some just how much value conversation really adds. Yet, Fred Wilson just pointed me to a fascinating post about an experimental schooling method, whereby students who were doing well in certain classes no longer needed to attend the class. This may sound counterintuitive, but what happened was that a group of students simply taught each other the curriculum, and then spent more time learning other subjects as well. And, in teaching each other, they discovered that they learned much more themselves:
Now our independent study group was a remarkable group of non-conformists, whose marks -- on tests we didn't attend classes for or study for -- were so high that some wondered aloud if we were somehow cheating. My grades had climbed into the low 90% range, and this included English where such marks were rare -- especially for someone whose grades had soared almost 30 points in a few months of 'independent' study. The fact is that my peers had done what no English teacher had been able to do -- inspire me to read and write voraciously, and show me how my writing could be improved. My writing, at best marginal six months earlier, was being published in the school literary journal. On one occasion, a poem of mine I read aloud in class (one of the few occasions I actually attended a class that year) produced a spontaneous ovation from my classmates.While I didn't go through a program like that, some of my own experiences have been similar. In college, I was four semesters deep in statistics class before I took a job tutoring stats, and then eventually teaching an intro college class in statistics, and it wasn't until I tutored others and (finally) taught that class that I really understood many of the concepts that I'd supposedly "learned" in class. In class, I did quite well, but it was because I'd learned how to get by and solve problems. In actually teaching others, I was forced to really understand the subject so that I could actually answer the questions that came up.
The Grade 12 final examinations in those days were set and marked by a province-wide board, so universities could judge who the best students were without having to consider differences between schools. Our independent study group, a handful of students from just one high school, won most of the province-wide scholarships that year. I received the award for the highest combined score in English and Mathematics in the province -- an almost unheard-of 94%.
The same is true of posts here. I had learned a lot about the economics of information and innovation in college, and then again working in Silicon Valley. However, the more I wrote about these subjects on Techdirt, the more people challenged different ideas, and got me thinking more deeply about them and how to not just defend my positions (or to change them, if I was convinced otherwise), but to really understand the subjects much more deeply. I've purchased more textbooks (and read them cover to cover) running this blog than I ever did in college or grad school -- and (this is the amazing part) even started recognizing where some of them have made mistakes.
These discussions are like another graduate degree for me, because I constantly have to think, rethink, defend and truly understand the arguments I'm making. It's hard to overstate how incredibly valuable that's been. The fact that many journalists refuse to engage in that sort of conversation actually shows through in their work: they don't want to bother. They like to position themselves as experts, but many don't really understand what they're talking about. Engaging in the conversation may be a lot of work -- and, at times, it can be frustrating or seemingly pointless. But, the massive amount of value I've received from those discussions -- just like the student in the story above -- is almost impossible to quantify. People talk about the importance of ongoing education. That's exactly what these conversations are for me.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 28th 2009 9:58am
from the privacy-questions dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 24th 2009 12:29pm
from the join-it dept
That's why it's great to see this post by Fred Wilson, discussing the value he gets out of his blog being a giant (brilliant) discussion. In fact, he talks about how he views it as a forum. He even notes how he got trashed in a recent discussion because he didn't get some of the facts right. But that's part of the benefit of a conversation. If I'm talking to someone about an interesting topic, I don't spend hours researching the topic, I bring up what I've heard, express my opinion, and expect them to be able to add to the conversation -- even if it includes correcting factual inaccuracies. Like Fred, that's part of what's so valuable about a community like Fred has built around his site, or that we've gathered here on Techdirt.
Yet, there are still people in the world, like the lawyer above, who fail to understand this. And that includes newspaper publishers as well -- who are so focused on some artificial standard of publishing, that they forget the community part. You can see it in the comments on this post, where an old school newspaper guy lashes out at bloggers and journalists who blog without living up to some mythological standard. As I've said before, it's the community that's the most valuable asset of any news organization -- and part of engaging with that community is recognizing that they have a lot to add to the conversation -- and that means letting them in on the overall thought process. It's not just about delivering them a final work. Getting things right is important -- and I work hard to make sure that what I write is accurate. But I'm confident that if I get something wrong, the community here is quick to step up with a correction (and sometimes an insult) -- and we all learn from it. And that's what makes the conversation worthwhile.